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Glossary

Data dashboards

Data dashboards are management tools that collect and display metrics, such as key performance indicators, to monitor and improve business activities.

A true decision-making tool, data dashboards bring together and visualize all of an organization’s relevant key performance indicators (KPIs), normally personalized to the user accessing the dashboard. Therefore the CEO will see a different level of detail to an operational manager in a specific department. The objective is to better understand performance, and use this information to take more informed decisions that improve operations and strategy.

What is a data dashboard?

Definition of a data dashboard

Data dashboards are management tools that collect and display metrics, such as key performance indicators (KPIs), to monitor and improve business activities. The objective is to monitor and learn from data, through compelling, understandable visualizations.

Data presented in a dashboard can take different forms, such as ratios, graphs, curves, or maps. Generally, dashboards visualize numeric data, allowing managers to track and evaluate the performance of an organization.

Different types of data dashboards

Data dashboards can be created to provide a global overview of all of a company’s objectives or to go deeper into a particular area. They can be focused on supporting decision-making, providing operational information or delivering financial reports. Dashboards show data linked to pre-defined objectives, such as improving sales, launching new services, increasing margins, reducing costs, or improving employee engagement.

Regardless of the objective, dashboards can be divided into three main categories:

  • The operational dashboard: this is used to check that tasks are being carried out.
  • The strategic dashboard: this groups together all KPIs that enable a particular objective to be achieved.
  • The process dashboard: this gathers process data to document the implementation of a project.

Why use a data dashboard?

The primary mission of the data dashboard is to help organizations manage their activities and performance. Dashboards provide multiple advantages:

  • Identify strengths and weaknesses: thanks to KPIs, it is easy to identify whether activities are on track. Decision-makers can then easily take action to make necessary improvements.
  • Provide alerts: Data dashboards indicate any gaps between forecasts and reality. If an indicator is below a critical threshold, the dashboard can send automated alerts, often in real-time.
  • Motivate teams: the effectiveness of a dashboard depends on whether it is used by employees as part of their roles. Encouraging them to view and act on dashboard information enables teams to monitor progress and take action, without requiring management intervention.
  • Make the best strategic decisions: the data dashboard is above all an invaluable decision-making tool. It helps managers to identify the actions they need to take to achieve their goals through a deeper understanding of the current position.

How to build a data dashboard

Given its importance in decision making, the process of building a data dashboard needs to be robust and well-thought out. Here are some tips for designing a relevant and effective dashboard.

Define objectives

To be able to track relevant KPIs, it is essential to first define your desired objectives. These objectives can be very varied, such as increasing the growth rate, engaging customers/employees or building loyalty.

  • Based on the objectives, look to answer these questions:
  • Who will use the dashboard?
  • In what format will it be built?
  • How often should it be updated?
  • Choose relevant indicators

Next, you need to define a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) that meet your objectives. It is important to choose the right indicators (conversion rate, email open rate, sales, etc.) and to limit their number. Only select the most relevant KPIs in order to focus on the essential.

Improve the quality of your data

The dashboard contributes to decision making thanks to the information collected and analyzed. However, in order to make relevant decisions, this data must be relevant, reliable, and up-to-date. Ensure you focus on data quality when building the dashboard to deliver trustworthy information to users.

Communicate

Data dashboards should be available to a wide range of stakeholders, not just data experts. Users include:

  • Management – for effective decision making
  • Managers – to inform and motivate their teams
  • Employees – to follow guidelines and understand their progress against targets
  • Citizens/consumers – to transparently monitor the activities of public and private organizations, such as against sustainability and performance goals.

Your dashboards must therefore be accessible, understandable and easy to use by all stakeholders.

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